Bridges & Barriers for the Hui to receive Christ
In addition to over 1 billion Han people, China is also home to 22 million Muslims of 10 distinct ethnic groups. The Hui (pronounced “h-way”) are the largest of these with an official population of over 10 million. However, these official figures do not include the many unregistered children born to rural families; so the actual Muslim population could be significantly higher.
There are Hui communities in almost every city and county of China, often segregated from the majority Han people. The ancestors of the Hui were Arab soldiers who traveled to China to help the Emperor quell uprisings in the 8th century AD; others came along the Silk Road as traders from as far west as Istanbul. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongol Emperors encouraged Turks, Arabs and Persians to settle in China. These groups intermarried with the Arab Muslims, who had come 500 years earlier, and with local Han people. The descendants of these intermarriages are the present-day Hui ethnic group.
As the centuries passed, the Hui lost most of their ancestral languages, but they retained their original religion. The Hui now speak Mandarin Chinese and/or the local dialects of the regions in which they live, but their religious vocabulary comes from Arabic. For example, they call Jesus “Er-sa” from the Arabic “Isa”, instead of “Ye-su” (which is what the Han believers use.) While some Hui (especially the elderly and rural Hui) adhere staunchly to the traditions of Islam, others (especially the unmarried youth and the urban Hui) differ from their Han Chinese counterparts only because they abstain from eating pork. There are also regional and sectarian differences in how Hui people interpret Islam. The barriers and bridges to the gospel for each individual Hui person will therefore vary, sometimes significantly.
George Otis, Jr. has spent several years analyzing more than a dozen communities where God has transformed the people. In his book, Informed Intercession, he says that two factors recur in every place he investigated. These core factors are persevering leadership and fervent, united prayer. The leaders were either locals from the community or outsiders but had to be committed to serving God in the community before He would reveal His strategy to them. Otis says, “In each of our featured case studies, breakthroughs occurred when intercessors addressed specific concerns in common cause.” The great need for spiritual breakthroughs among the Hui has become apparent to the foreigners working among them, so this booklet aims to (1) inspire more people to pray for the Hui and (2) enable more specific and hence more effective intercessory prayer.
Scripture is clear that God wants all people to be saved (2 Peters3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4) and His hand has been working to bring the Hui to Himself. In Psalm 50:23, God says, “He who sacrifices thank-offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” Through the true stories of Hui people (whose names have been changed), this booklet seeks to honour God by thanking Him for His work as well as exposing barriers to the Hui trusting in Jesus for salvation. Paul teaches us that our weapons have divine power to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). In Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets encourages believers to pray like this: “In the mighty name of Jesus, I tear down the barrier of the denial of Jesus’ divinity in the lives of the Hui. I invite the Holy Spirit to show them the truth that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).” Sheets encourages prayers like the above sample to be prayed daily until it is clear that the barrier has been removed and the truth has been revealed to the people. If you want be more in touch with what God is doing among the Hui people you can email Pray4Hui@psmail.net for regular prayer updates.
A note on names used in this booklet:
All Hui babies are taken to the Ahong (Hui term for member of Muslim clergy) to be named soon after birth. Since most Hui do not speak Arabic they transliterate the Arabic Koranic name given to the baby by the Ahong into syllables that occur in Mandarin Chinese. This becomes the baby’s Muslim name. The names used in this booklet for Hui people are mostly these Muslim names as spelt using Chinese pinyin (a Romanized script of Chinese).
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23)
“I know that before God I am a sinner, but I am not a sinner when I compare myself to others. My family and I do not drink alcohol; we are faithful at giving to the Mosque; my parents and brother have been to Mecca... When I wanted to leave the Tomb Mosque I study at, the elders begged me not to because they said that my family are so honorable we give the Tomb Complex a good name.” The Ahong who spoke these words has now taken a second wife, without divorcing his first wife. Even at the end of Ramadan festival he was too ashamed to take his second wife with him to the family home for the celebrations. By the grace of God he is beginning to realize that he too is a sinner in need of forgiveness.
Many Hui do not know that “no-one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law rather through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20). Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day some Hui (especially Muslim clergy) are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everybody else (Luke 18:9-14). They have devised a set of rules which are comprised of a mixture of tradition (like green veils for married women, white veils for very old women) and Islamic precepts (like praying 5 times a day and not eating pork). They have detailed rules about how to shower and how to complete the ritual washing before prayers instead of emphasizing the need for purity of heart. Those who keep the rules feel superior and this religious pride prevents them acknowledging their need for a Saviour, as well as causing God to oppose them (James 4:6). The Hui have few models of true godliness in their circle of relationships. This is one reason why there is a great need for more workers among them. The Hui who seek God rarely see a true testimony of Him from the Mosque. If they recognize the genuine godliness of the ambassadors of Christ they are already halfway to receiving Him.
Ask God to bring conviction of sin to all Hui people.
Ask Him to expose the sins of Hui who are confident of their own righteousness. (Ephesians 5:11)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
In 1943, God said to a Chinese pastor, Mark Ma, that since Pentecost, the gospel had generally spread from Jerusalem in a westward direction all the way to China and now He wants the Chinese to take the gospel from China all the way back to Jerusalem. Here is the conclusion of their conversation:
“I (Mark) said, ‘That section of territory is under the power of Islam and the Mohammedans (Muslims) are the hardest of all people to reach with the Gospel.’
The Lord said, ‘The most rebellious people are the Israelites; my own field of labour was the hardest.’
I said, ‘O Lord, if it is not that their hearts are especially hard, why is it that missionaries from Europe and America have established so many churches in China, but are still unable to open the door to Western Asia’
Thank God for giving the Han church a vision for church planting among Muslims.
Ask God to strengthen the Han church so that they can fulfil this vision.
The Lord said, ‘It is not that their hearts are especially hard, but that I have kept for the Chinese Church a portion of inheritance, otherwise, when I return will you not be too poor’”
In the 1940’s, small teams of Han believers who adopted Mark Ma’s vision to reach the Muslims risked their lives by traveling as far as Qinghai and Xinjiang to share the gospel. Some were imprisoned and died in the effort. The vision appeared to die for about 50 years while China went through the pain and upheaval of the Mao years and the church went underground. In John 12, Jesus teaches that, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The seeds of the gospel scattered across China in the last centuries and the blood of Chinese and foreign martyrs are fueling God’s work in China today.
There is now a huge potential workforce of financially poor, yet spiritually rich Han believers. Many of their leaders have committed to the Back to Jerusalem vision. With foreign workers’ help Han churches have sent workers overseas to plant churches in predominantly Muslim nations. And now they are just beginning to train and send full-time workers to witness among the Muslim and Tibetan minorities within China as well. Unfortunately, although some Han churches realize the value of training their people to reach the Hui and gaining experience at home before sending them overseas, there is generally a lack of commitment to reach the Hui on the part of the Han church leaders. Could it be that God will use the Han and Hui believers to take the gospel out of China to other Muslim people groups
Since this vision has been widely publicized in the West, many foreigners want to financially support the Han churches in fulfilling this calling. However, for this vision to become a movement, it must be self-financed. As experience shows, outside financing cripples the growth of local leadership, creating dependency which can last for generations.
Ask God to give Han church leaders a vision to reach the Muslims in China.
Ask God to give foreigners servant hearts to come alongside the Han churches to facilitate the new thing God is doing rather than to bring in their “answers”.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
As many as 5,000 people fought with sticks and burned several houses over a weekend in October 2004, in violence between Han and Hui people. The violence began after members of two families from separate villages fought over a traffic dispute. The fighting resulted in seven dead and forty-two injured. This report is according to residents of a village near Zhengzhou, Henan, interviewed by Fox News.
The government longs for harmony among the 56 people groups who call themselves citizens of China, but they have been unable to procure it. Being reconciled to God is the first step for the Han and Hui to be truly reconciled to one another. One of the ongoing concerns of the Chinese government is that Muslims in the northwest of the country will rebel and set up their own Islamic State. As historical evidence reveals, this is a very real threat. In the 1800’s Muslims managed to reign for about a decade in the north-west of China from Lanzhou all the way to Kashgar and in the south-west from Kunming to Dali. The central government employed deceit and brute force to reduce the Muslims to submission, but not without both sides losing millions of lives, as well as destroying the wealth of those regions.
This legacy has resulted in continued racial tensions that erupt with the slightest provocation, like the above report of a traffic accident leading to a brawl involving thousands of people! This is the fulfillment of the angel of the LORD’s prophecy about Ishmael before he was born, “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers.” Since many Han believers view the Hui (who are Ishmael’s descendants) as fierce fighters they struggle with fear and some doubt that God can save the Hui. The Hui are also slow to make friends with Han people. However, there are a few success stories of Han believers who are making disciples of Hui people.
Ask God to help Han believers live out reconciliation by loving and respecting the Hui before conversion.
Ask God to help Han churches in predominantly Hui areas to start sensitive gospel outreach to their Hui neighbours and colleagues.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were a few missionaries who trained in Islamic apologetics as well as learning Arabic and Chinese in order to minister to the Hui and other Muslim minorities of China. Two of the most well known are: William Borden, the rich and godly American who died in Cairo while in training, and George Harris, who saw about 20 Chinese Muslims come to saving faith. However, much of the work among the Hui was characterized by faithful effort (“Master, we have toiled all night” Luke 5:5), failure (“and have taken nothing”) and faith (“nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net”).
Following 1951, when all foreign workers were asked to leave China, there were 40 years without foreign outreach to the Hui. In the 1980’s, foreign workers began to trickle back into China. They used creative methods of access, like teaching English or studying the Chinese language at Universities. God shared his heart for the Chinese Muslims with some of these workers. In the last decade, the number of foreign workers focused on the Hui has increased significantly. There are now small teams in at least seven cities focusing on outreach to the Hui. Yet, the ratio of workers to Hui people is still very low. One way to improve this ratio is for foreigners to train Han people to reach the Hui. People who are directly engaged in outreach to the Hui themselves are the best ones to do this training. Most foreign workers face significant linguistic, cultural and climatic hurdles before becoming effective; experience shows that it generally takes 10 years for a cross-cultural missionary to become a fully effective change-agent in the host culture. Since the amount of time taken for a Hui person to believe is related to how long it takes the witness to clearly present the gospel, there is a great need for workers to persevere in the early years of ministry before any Hui come to faith.
Ask God to give every good and faithful worker at least three Hui Timothys to disciple.
Ask God to bring the right Han and Hui believers to Muslim evangelism equipping centres and pray for effective transfer of knowledge and skills from foreigners to Chinese workers.
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” (1 Corinthians 9:20)
Between 1965 and 1971, 2 million people in West Java, Indonesia, were baptized and began attending fellowships because of events clearly engineered by God. Most of the converts were Muslims. The westernized Indonesian churches hardly grasped this opportunity because, for the most part, they failed to cooperate with the cultural and political events. They refused to receive people into the church as whole villages even though the traditional pattern of decision making in those communities was by consensus. The churches in Indonesia that made the Javanese feel most at home and least foreign had the most church growth. These churches had conformed culturally to external practices and methods of communication, such as traditional dance and drama, as well as having “Javanesed” the gospel according to three of their religious traditions, one of which was Islam. (Taken from The Challenge of Planting Churches in Muslim Cities by Greg Livingstone)
Contextualization is the process of understanding a people group’s worldview and subsequently communicating the gospel message in a way that is faithful to God’s revelation as well as meaningful to the recipients’ cultural and existential contexts. Workers are just beginning to analyze the Hui people’s worldview in an attempt to communicate the gospel message in a more meaningful way. However, the main task of planting contextualized churches will be done by Hui believers. Great discernment and protection from God is necessary as they seek to make biblical truth relevant to their context while maintaining fidelity to Scripture. Despite its potential hazards, contextualization is an important prerequisite to seeing a church planting movement among the Hui. About 99% of Hui believers have either not met with other believers or joined Han fellowships and become absorbed into the culture of those groups rather than starting their own Hui fellowship.
Ask God to give Hui believers vision and faith to step out of the relative comfort of Han fellowships to begin completely contextualized Hui fellowships.
Ask God to protect Hui believers from syncretism as they start Hui fellowships.
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Mark 12:29)
As she read Mark 12:29 A-xi-ya exclaimed, “Then we really are the same as you Christians! I was taught that you believed in three gods: God the father, God the mother (Mary) and God the son (Jesus), but if you believe what your Bible says here then you are the same as us Hui! This is true, God is one. But there are other parts of your Bible that have been corrupted.”
The Hui have several misunderstandings about the Christian faith. The vast majority of Hui people have never met a Christian, let alone heard the message of salvation. So they continue to believe what they have been taught at the Mosque or from their parents; namely that Christians worship crosses and statues, believe in three gods, that the Bible has been corrupted, that the Koran supersedes the Bible, etc. Although they recognize Jesus as a prophet and the Bible as a holy book they esteem Mohammed and the Koran as superior to Jesus and the Bible. This discourages the devout Hui (who may be the more spiritually responsive) from reading the Bible and getting to know Christians. They, like the Pharisees of Jesus time, consider it blasphemy when Christians claim that Jesus is God (see John 10). This is probably the greatest triumph of the devil in their lives and we must ask God to overcome this barrier.
The Koran contains some truth about Jesus; teaching that He was born of a virgin, led a sinless life, performed miraculous healings and he should be obeyed. Discussing these verses with the Hui is a very helpful bridge to sharing the gospel with them and can evoke an interest in reading the gospel accounts for spiritually open Hui. As the Hui are led in chronological Bible studies or story-telling sessions the truths missing in Islam can be gradually introduced and the misunderstandings about Christianity addressed.
Ask God to increase the proclamation of His truth to the Hui, through the Jesus movie, tracts, and the spoken words of workers.
In Jesus’ name remove the barrier of the denial of His divinity and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the Trinity to the Hui as they hear the gospel message.
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)
“I am a Hui lady in my twenties. I prayed to receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour just before I graduated from University. As I returned home my heart was filled with dread; I feared that my new identity in Christ would be discovered so I did everything possible to hide it. But to my surprise after two months of being home, my Mum, a single parent, also prayed the prayer of repentance. I then admitted that I too believed. In my mother’s great joy at her own salvation she told my grandmother. But grandma was drastically opposed to this news. She told the extended family and they put great pressure on my Mum to renounce Christ, which she did through an Islamic ceremony. She then kept close watch over me, confiscating my Bible and few Christian books. I really love my Mum who has sacrificed many things to give me a good education so I cannot bear to hurt her now by continuing to follow Jesus. I feel guilty if I try to meet up with other Christians and I feel guilty if I attend our Hui religious ceremonies. Confusion reigns in my heart!”
This young lady has since married and her husband has become interested in the gospel enough to ask for a Bible to read! Praise God for being faithful to her. There are under a hundred known Hui believers (2004 statistics), out of a total population of over 10 million Hui. The Hui who have come to faith in Jesus are mostly young women who are not leaders in their communities. Some of them are no longer in fellowship with other Christians because of family pressure to recant; some of those who have turned back to Islam are now more devout Muslims. Others are in cell groups that use Han or foreign forms of worship that their Hui relatives (if they were to attend) would find very alien. Very few Hui who are decision makers in their communities have heard a clear presentation of the gospel and so far we have yet to see a church planting movement among the Hui, although there is now at least one Hui church plant.
Beseech God to enable all Hui believers to maintain a pure and simple devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Pray for a re-awakening and recommitment to Jesus for the Hui who have once believed.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” (Ephesians 1:13)
The workers knew this man was ready to pray the sinner’s prayer and their hearts rejoiced! He had lapped up the truth as they had read and discussed the Bible with him. But suddenly a cloud of fear enveloped his heart and he thought, “What will my family do if I become a Christian” The workers prayed against the fear that was gripping his heart and God’s peace released him to accept the great and glorious message of salvation through Jesus.
Although the term Hui is the title given to their ethnic group, the Hui have a very strong corporate sense that to be Hui is to be part of the world-wide Muslim community. Perhaps they have a deep fear of either annihilation after the brutal crushing of earlier rebellions or of being swallowed up by the majority Han culture. This serves as a great barrier to their trusting in Jesus as Saviour. They might like what they hear and see of the gospel as it is lived out before them through the lives of Christians but they fear losing their identity as part of the Muslim community which in China is their lifeline to success, as social success is all determined by whom you know, not what you know. The term “Hui” technically refers to their ethnic identity which cannot change even if their religion changes but in their minds “Hui” is synonymous with “Muslim”. When the Hui are outside their community, studying at University for example, they more readily accept the gospel. But they tend to adapt culturally to Chinese believers and become insensitive to their own people, not knowing how to share their new faith in a culturally sensitive way with their families. Hui believers who return to their communities and share with them often find they bring shame on the family so they leave and go to other cities to work. As the Hui become Christians they face an identity crisis and it is vital that they establish their identity in Christ at that time.
In Jesus name tear down the lie that “Hui” equals “Muslim” and pray that He would establish all Hui believers as His children. (Galatians 4:6)
Ask God to give the first believers in each community hope and faith to pray fervently for their families and friends to trust in Jesus for salvation.
“If the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15)
So-fei-ya was glad to be able to work; it took her mind off her parents’ heated arguments and cold silences. She used to love her Dad so much but now hatred for him filled her heart and mind as she pounded the noodle dough. The oil had run out and he had still not given her any money to buy more. As she worked she made spiteful plans to get him to pay for oil: she would serve her family boiled noodles with no salt or oil tonight. “See if he can stomach that!” she thought to herself. She would have to tell her sister and brother to keep their mouths shut and just eat so as not to give the game away. The only alternative was to borrow some oil from the neighbour, but why should she have to humble herself again when he obviously had money because he was buying two packets of cigarettes a day She knew her father was still a Muslim and would be able to get to heaven because he had paid the Mosque annual fee but he had brought their family into poverty by not providing for them.
There are several firmly held beliefs in Islam that are barriers to Muslims even wanting a Saviour. The Hui believe that they will go to heaven because they are Muslim. They try to observe the 5 pillars of Islam in their old age in an attempt to reduce the time they spend in hell having their sins purified away, but they are at least superficially confident that they will be received into heaven eventually. This means that many of them are not even looking for the forgiveness of sins. Their concept of sin is different from biblical revelation; they believe that God made us weak and so we are expected to sin. The 5 pillars of Islam are: profession of the creed that there is only One God and Mohammed is His prophet, set prayers at five set times a day, fasting for the month of Ramadan, giving financially to the Mosque and at least one trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Ask God to reveal to the Hui that just as Adam was banished from paradise after committing one sin we too cannot get to heaven because of our sin.
Invite God to reveal to the Hui that Jesus is the only door to heaven.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
Su-mi rehearsed what she would say to her husband when he came home: “Your wife is the only one in your family who does not have fashionable shoes. You should be ashamed of yourself. They are all saying how tight you are! You make a thousand Yuan (US$80) a month as a driver but you gamble it all away.” She looked down at her old shoes and longed for a pair of the long-toed ones that had come into fashion this year. She hated having to squeeze money out of her husband every time she wanted something, especially as he only came home once a month. When she discovered her sister-in-law felt the same they came up with a plan: Su-mi would let her house out to tenants who would lend her capital, her mother-in-law would look after their young children and they would start a restaurant. After much persuasion Su-mi’s husband agreed to let their house in exchange for a loan of 20,000 Yuan. Su-mi and her sister-in-law busied themselves setting up a small hot-pot restaurant, ignoring the frequent disagreements between themselves. The restaurant did good business but the disagreements got sharper and within a few months the partnership broke down. Su-mi pulled out with what money she could take with her and started another restaurant the other side of town.
To the outsider it appears that the Hui live in tight-knit communities; even in big cities they tend to live in clusters around the Mosques. However, this story illustrates the hidden problem of broken relationships within the community. The Hui themselves say that where there are 5 Hui they will end up with 3 Mosques because they cannot agree on the practice of their religion.
Thank God for the strength of the networked Hui communities as this will aid the spread of the gospel once it has penetrated one Hui community.
Ask God to heal broken family relationships as the Hui come to Christ.
“When Jesus had called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2)
Fa-tu-mei used to have a good job in the hospital but this summer she became oppressed by a demon. She went to the Hui folk doctor who gave her a potion to drink but that did not help. Then she borrowed money from her family and went to a mental hospital. They doped her up with sedatives and she found she stopped being violent. But she felt so drowsy that all she wanted to do was sleep. The doctors said she would have to take the medication for at least two years, but if she had a relapse she would be on medication for life. Since two believers started sharing the truth about Jesus with Fa-tu-mei she has come off the medication completely. Whereas before the demon oppressed her she felt no need for God, now she is so desperate for deliverance that she is willing to pray to Jesus and study the Bible.
Many Hui recognize the reality of demons and fear them. In one area of China many of the homeless are those who have become violent because of their demon possession. Their families generally do all they can but if the person is violent they often end up on the streets to fend for themselves as best they can. Rural Hui admit that they know little about their religion, and actually many of their practices are more akin to superstition or animism than Islam.
Many of the Hui in the north-west of China are folk Muslims who, in times of need, go to the tombs of Muslim saints to burn incense and pray. They ask the dead saints to intercede for them, not knowing that God is close enough to hear their prayers. The sacrifices they offer at these “holy” places can bring them under bondage to demons. These Hui firmly believe that what their ancestors have passed down to them is the best and right way to live. Their bondage is more to tradition and demons than to the false religion of Islam.
Ask God to prepare workers' hearts to receive the power of the Holy Spirit so that they can heal the sick and deliver the demon possessed. (Luke 4:14 and John 14:12)
Ask God to deliver Hui like Fa-tu-mei from demons as they turn to Jesus for help.
“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28)
From snowy winter days to the sweltering heat of summer Mai-er-yan can be found, sometimes knitting, sometimes chatting to friends, occasionally selling some embroidery or ornamental souvenir to a tourist passing by her little, open-fronted shop. Mai-er-yan and her husband rely on their business to send their two children to the Han schools, where the educational level is better than that of the local Hui schools.
About 8 years ago, Mai-er-yan met her first Christian foreign friend. Since then a number of Christian families and singles have moved to her area. They visit and chat with her regularly. Around two years ago, Mai-er-yan had a dream in which she saw two of those friends and a third person, whom she recognized as Jesus. She told those two friends about her dream and they gladly took this long-awaited opportunity to clearly explain the gospel message to her. A week later she rang one of them to say that she was not able to turn her back on her heritage, her culture and her family in order to follow Jesus. “Please do not expect me to become a Christian,” she said.
Generally the Hui recognize that God can speak through dreams and other forms of supernatural revelation because Mohammed received the words of the Koran while in a trance. Mai-er-yan is just one of many Hui to whom God has given dreams of Jesus, and like her few of the others have turned from Islam to follow Jesus after one or two such dreams. In Daughters of Islam the Muslim women who became Christians all had numerous supernatural encounters with God before finally surrendering to His lordship in their lives. Workers need great perseverance and faith to continue reaching out to the Hui because it often takes many months for them to completely accept the claims of Jesus.
Thank God for giving the Hui a respect for dreams and visions.
Ask God to give all workers perseverance as they love the Hui.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Zai-nai-bai was too angry to eat again tonight, she told her daughter to prepare enough noodles for the three children and she went out to the road to see if her husband was going to make an appearance. She hated it when he stayed out all night with another woman. She felt so helpless to change the situation, even her brother, an Ahong, said she should just accept his infidelity and not make a fuss. When he had broken her rib by kicking her in the back her family had at last stepped in and reported him to the police. But since his rich sister paid bail for him the few months he spent in prison had not changed him much. She worried about what he might be doing… Was he still selling drugs with that woman from Dongxiang If she divorced her husband he would take her only son and she would be left with no one to care for her in her old age. Her tears fell as hopelessness and frustration overwhelmed her.
The Koran teaches that the testimony of one man is worth as much as that of two women. It also teaches that women should be beaten if they are not submissive. Mother-in-laws often tell their sons to beat their wives. For rural Hui women, their only hope of an easier life is to have a son who will eventually marry and bring a wife into the family home. This young bride becomes the unpaid slave of her mother-in-law and cares for the elderly parents when her husband is out working. Many Hui men live and work in big cities far away from their home villages and towns. They see their wives irregularly and thus infidelity is a big temptation. The Hui women who lack education or money do not have the option of leaving their unfaithful husbands. Fewer Hui men have responded to the gospel than women; perhaps fear of the equality they see in Christian marriages prevents Hui men accepting the claims of Christ.
Ask God to enable Hui believers to value women as much as men.
Ask God to heal Hui women as they come to Christ, from all their past emotional wounds and to lead them into the good works He prepared for them to do in Christ.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1)
A-li woke up at the first light of dawn with a beating heart; he crept out of bed and untied the family dog. Er-sa was waiting for him at the end of the lane and the two of them walked across town to the bus station. They found a man who would give them thirty Yuan for their dog and with that money they boarded a bus for Lanzhou. A-li had had enough humiliation at school and at age 12 he wanted to start earning money so that his family could eat meat every day. He and his teenage neighbour ran away to the big city to find jobs. Their little money was soon gone, however, and they did not have a clue how to find a job in the daunting metropolis of fast cars and busy people. Thankfully a kind-hearted man noticed them hanging around the railway station and he paid their bus ticket home.
The literacy level among most rural (and some urban) Hui is very low. Many Hui boys only complete primary education as their families want their help as free labour in corner shops, small factories, restaurants or other businesses run by their parents. In the villages short term financial needs often take precedent over the long-term development of the family through education. There are some Hui villages where not one single girl goes to school, and only some of the boys go. This makes it hard for the Hui to prosper as a people; low education levels keep them in low-paying manual jobs. But more importantly the lack of literacy among the Hui is a barrier for them becoming familiar with the commands of Jesus as written down in the Bible. Those who are illiterate are unable to read the Bible for themselves. The danger of semi-literacy and illiteracy is seen in rural Han believers – they are susceptible to the teachings of pseudo-Christian cults, like the Lightning from the East, as they cannot check what they are being taught with what the Bible itself says.
Pray that the Hui who trust in Jesus would learn to read the Bible even if it is hard work for them because of illiteracy.
Ask God to break the cycle of poverty and the mindset that seeks short term solutions instead of investing now for the future.
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Matthew 10:40-41)
Course, after steaming course, the food kept coming. There were only 5 guests at the table but Mrs. Ma produced dumplings, boiled mutton, fried chicken, a fish, three different vegetable dishes and steamed buns. Mr. Ma did not have a seat at the table; he scurried around topping up the tea cups and bringing the dishes in from the kitchen. His daughter carried the guest’s baby so that they could eat without being disturbed. Only after the guests had eaten their fill and gone home did the Ma family sit down to finish off what was left of the 8 course meal. Mr. Ma has only a school teacher’s salary but he served his guests generously and graciously.
God has preserved the Hui people’s culture of offering the best one has to guests, and serving them by preparing delicious food and drink, as this will help them to receive His ambassadors and thus hear the gospel message. At present the Chinese all look to developed countries with a mixture of envy and admiration. The Hui too, recognize that most foreigners come from developed countries and many want to broaden their horizons by getting to know foreigners. Often their desire is to learn English from foreigners. The Hui also view Christians as people of the Book, and thus feel a greater affinity with them than with Buddhist or Communist Han people. Many Hui communities are at first suspicious of Christians who begin to live and work among them but in time relationships of trust are built that provide an opportunity to share the greatest news of all.
Thank God for giving the Hui such an exemplary gift of hospitality.
Pray that the Hui would receive Christians into their hearts as well as their homes, so that they may hear the message of Truth.
“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ” (Matthew 15:11)
“Lai, lai, lai!” Men with white hats bid passers-by to come and eat strips of mutton on skewers, sizzling over hot coals at the tiny stalls along the Hui food market street. Spicy aromas fill the night air, mixing with the shop-keepers cries and the pounding of noodles being stretched and banged down on the kneading boards. It is 8 at night. The stall sellers and restaurateurs are at their busiest, enticing all those who venture out for the evening breeze to taste their dishes. These Middle Eastern flavors, along with the religion of Arabia, came first to China on the backs of camels along the famous Silk Road.
Today in China almost every provincial capital has Muslim restaurants displaying the two Chinese characters: “Qing Zhen”, literally meaning “pure and true” but actually signifying that the food is Halal (the Muslim version of Kosher). Some Hui will not even mention the word “pig”, using two hands behind their ears to express their meaning instead of uttering the word. Other Hui, even many of those who have come to faith, are willing to eat in non-Halal restaurants but will not eat any pork served to them. Most Hui people will not eat in Han people’s houses. In a country where eating together is a prerequisite to becoming friends, this causes problems for Han who want to reach out to the Hui. Many workers using friendship evangelism with the Hui need to consider making their homes pork-free so that their Hui friends can eat in their houses. Many secularized Hui adhere to no Islamic precepts except abstinence from pork. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for paying too much attention to the outward issues of the law to the exclusion of heart issues.
Ask God to reveal to the Hui that speaking sinful words (e.g. lies) make them “unclean” in God’s sight.
Ask God to call Hui believers to take the message of Jesus back along the Silk Road to the nations of their ancestors.
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20:25-28)
For most of China’s history she has been ruled by a small elite group of people who wield complete power. It appears that this power-hungry force affects the ordinary people in the country too. In rural communities the Hui clergy wield a lot of control over their flock. The Koran is in Arabic and the Chinese translations are hard to understand for the semi-literate. So the Ahongs (who study 5-10 years to memories the Koran) are the ones the whole community looks to for religious direction and wisdom. This is not the case in urban communities.
All Christian workers come to the field with their own problems and many of them struggle with issues of control. To see a church planting movement workers must release and empower new believers by training them to obey Jesus and giving them opportunities to lead. They must trust God to lead the Hui believers. There is a danger and tendency for workers to unknowingly make the new believers dependant on them rather than on God. This happens when believers who come to ask the foreign “expert” what God wants them to do are given man’s opinion rather than being taught to recognize God’s voice for themselves. Dependency can also be created by the funding of work from foreign coffers rather than from the local church as the locals forfeit the opportunity to step out in faith through having their financial needs met by the foreigners. A key element in church planting movements is the availability of a large number of lay Christians who are equipped to lead cell churches. Controlling workers are threatened by other leaders and therefore resist the training and releasing of young leaders. These dangers are also all relevant for the Hui believers who work as church planters.
Pray that all workers and Hui believers would model Jesus standard of servant leadership becoming the servant of all as they lead their churches. (Matthew 20:24-28 and John 13:1-17)
Ask God to teach all workers and Hui believers to trust Him so that they can train and release many new leaders.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
Xiao Wang grew up in the village where her father is the Ahong. God orchestrated the circumstances of her life to prepare her heart so that when she heard the gospel she readily accepted it. She became a Christian in the city away from her family but as soon as they heard the news they called her home. Her Bible was confiscated and she had to stay at home under the supervision of her family for six months. After that her family let her go, saying that they did not mind her being a Christian. However, the other villagers disapproved of her release and kidnapped her. She was forced to attend Islamic classes at the Mosque and made to veil, but after four months she escaped to the city again. The Hui network which operated even in the city found her and kidnapped her again. This time they took her out of the province and made her get a job. God is faithful and has now given her a ministry right where she is.
In the 1920s there was a group of twenty Hui believers who met secretly on Sundays to read from a large Arabic Bible. They did not make themselves known to the American and Chinese missionaries in the city as they carried out open-air evangelism in the Muslim quarter of the city. It was several years after the American worker left the city that he heard about this group, as their leader came forward for baptism in another province.
Now, too, there may be many “hidden” Hui believers who fear taking a public stand for their faith because of the inevitable persecution they will experience from their community. Hui believers expect persecution but God always uses it for good. Persecution serves the purpose of separating the genuine followers of Christ from the people who are unwilling to die to their own flesh (in the form of wanting the praise of people, wanting a good job, etc). This produces a smaller but more deeply committed and united body of believers.
Ask God to pour out His Holy Spirit on all Hui believers giving them the boldness to testify about Jesus despite persecution (Acts 4:23-31).
Ask God to commune with all “hidden” Hui believers in isolation giving them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they may know Him better (Ephesians 1:17).
“‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)
“I grew up in Xinjiang and was bombarded from a young age by the atheism of communism through my school and classmates. My mother taught me only the rudimentary basics of our faith. When my family moved to this city I started to recognize the falsity of atheism and so I attended a Mosque class on Saturdays. I became a true Muslim then, as they taught me how to pray and read the Koran.”
Some Hui have gone through a period in their lives when they genuinely sought God and the only testimony they heard of his existence and character was from the Mosque class, so they became more devout Muslims despite the inconsistencies they could see within the followers of their own religion (like infighting between different sects who say all Muslims are brothers).
Cornelius was a God-fearing Gentile who prayed faithfully and gave to the poor. God gave him a vision telling him where to go to find out more about Himself, so he sent for Peter and before Peter had finished his sermon the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and most of his household. There are a number of Hui who genuinely fear God, pray faithfully and give to the poor. In Jeremiah 29:13 God promises the Israelites that if they seek Him with all their hearts they will find Him. Surely this is His invitation and promise to the Hui too, for “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35).
Praise and thank God that there are some Hui who do fear Him, pray to Him and give to the poor.
Pray for the Hui who are like Cornelius; pray that they would have perseverance to keep seeking God until they meet Jesus.
Has God touched your heart as you have prayed for the Hui people
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Bridges and Barriers is a prayer guide that will take you on a fascinating journey of discovery to meet a Chinese Muslim people group — the Hui.
Through true stories of individual Hui you will be inspired to intercessory prayer that can remove the barriers preventing a church planting movement among them.